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Increase in number of billionaires despite credit crisis

Car battery tycoon Wang Chuanfu (pictured) topped a new list of China's 1,000 richest people, which has 130 dollar billionaires in an emphatic declaration of the Asian giant's economic arrival.

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AFP - Car battery tycoon Wang Chuanfu topped a new list of China's 1,000 richest people released Tuesday, which has 130 dollar billionaires in an emphatic declaration of the Asian giant's economic arrival.

Most of the super-wealthy on the Hurun Rich List, unlike Wang, made their fortunes in the property and stock markets -- the focus of Beijing's massive government stimulus efforts over the past year.

"China's wealth is growing at breakneck speed," Rupert Hoogewerf, the founder of the Shanghai-based Hurun Report which publishes the annual list, told a press conference.

"You can double the real number of billionaires in China to 260. There are still a large number of billionaires off the radar screens, managing to build up substantial wealth away from the public spotlight from property, the stock market and investments," Hoogewerf said, noting China has the most known dollar billionaires after the US.

Wang, the founder of rechargeable battery and electric car maker BYD, leapt 102 places to top the rich list after his fortune increased more than five-fold to 5.1 billion dollars thanks to US billionaire investor Warren Buffett, said Hoogewerf.

Wang's 27.8 percent stake in BYD "hit the big time" after Buffett paid 230 million dollars for a 10 percent stake in the company last September.

The rich list had 180 new entrants -- despite the entry criteria for the latest list rising by 50 percent to 150 million dollars.

Seven people moved into the top 10, in the biggest shake-up since the report started publishing the rich list in 1999.

Last year's richest man, Huang Guangyu, who made his fortune building up the nation's largest electrical appliance chain Gome, slipped to the 17th spot after he was detained late last year on suspicion of market manipulation.

Du Shuanghua, last year's second-richest person, plunged 39 places to 41 as he battled a state-owned company for control of Shandong-based private steel manufacturer Rizhao Steel.

"Since our 2004 list, we have seen a ten-fold increase in the number of individuals with personal wealth of at least 150 million dollars," said Hoogewerf.

"In 2004, we could only find 100 individuals with 150 million, whereas this year, we managed to find 1,000 individuals with 150 million."

A separate report released Tuesday showed the number of super-rich people in the Asia Pacific shrank in 2008 despite the region's relative resilience in the face of the global economic slump.

This year's Asia-Pacific Wealth Report showed there were 2.4 million high-net-worth individuals (HNWI) in 2008, a 14.2 percent fall from the previous year.

The fall in HNWIs -- people with investable assets of at least one million US dollars -- is almost in line with the global average of 14.9 percent, the study by investment bank Merrill Lynch and financial consultancy Capgemini said.

China's HNWIs fared better than their counterparts elsewhere in the region, falling only 11.8 percent to 364,000 in 2008, thanks to a combination of closed markets and robust macroeconomic growth.

The Hurun Report said that rebounding capital markets and property prices pushed the collective net worth of the 1,000 richest people in China to 571 billion dollars by September 15 of this year, from 439 billion dollars last year.

Zhang Yin, the woman who founded paper-recycling company Nine Dragons Paper and China's richest person in 2006, was in second place.

Zhang was one of 102 women on the list -- up from 88 last year and accounting for 10.2 percent of the total.

"Significantly, all are self-made, a remarkably high percentage compared with their Western counterparts. Chinese women now lead the world's richest self-made women," the report said.

Among the new people in the top 10 were husband and wife Huang Wei and Li Ping, who shot up 23 spots to fifth place through their 71 percent stake in Shanghai-listed property developer Xinhu Zhongbao.

Shares in Xinhu Zhongbao had surged 265 percent to 12.5 yuan in early September from 4.7 yuan a year ago, the report said, reflecting strong gains in the Chinese stock market.

Zhongwang Holdings chairman Liu Zhongtian moved into 10th place with 4.1 billion dollars after the aluminium manufacturer raised 1.3 billion dollars through an initial public offering earlier this year.

 

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